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Duke Moscrip, is a self-proclaimed seafood sleuth who is well known for his detailed sourcing of Copper River Coho Salmon, Alaska Weathervane Scallops, and Dungeness Crab from the
Washington and Oregon Coast. Duke is thrilled to have these pristine wild prawns on
the menu at all of his restaurants. Duke is dubbing these "Pinata Prawns," because "they explode like a pinata with flavor in your mouth." The prawns boast a clean shrimp flavor and a firm snappy texture when cooked. Duke has served these prawns for many years but he recently decided to serve these exclusively. Here's why.
Harvested from the Sea of Cortez by local fishermen, the large wild prawns are unlike any other prawn on the market. After carefully tasting dozens of different prawns over the years, Duke first tasted these prawns in
Mexico and has now determined that these clean snappy prawns owe their wow factor to both inherent characteristics and to proper processing and handling once they are caught. Inferior imported prawns, or shrimp, are often sold with the heads intact, which deteriorates the quality of the flesh. Furthermore, other prawns can harbor an undesirable iodine taste. The Mexican White Prawns are beheaded, graded, processed and frozen immediately after they have been harvested and then shipped frozen in the shell.
Each year, Duke's Chowder House coordinates directly with the sellers in
Mexico, mandates certain processing techniques to be followed, and then buys about 32,000 pounds of these prawns. Duke explains, "This really is an independent effort...Not only am I finding the best source but I am finding how the prawns get handled at the source. I am driving these folks crazy with questions and I ask them to send me product to do taste comparisons. From there they have to adhere to our standards and procedures. It is a brand new way for them to do business, but we are getting the desired result of great tasting seafood."
Each day the kitchen staff and chefs at the restaurants carefully shell and devein each prawn by hand. There are about 20 prawns per pound, so this tedious task requires shelling and deveining about 640,000 prawns annually. According to Duke, however, it's worth it. He has tried other prawns over the years, but they aren't up to snuff for
Seattle's seafood sleuth.
Duke, who opened his first restaurant forty one years ago, explains, "I'm not just doing this for marketing purposes. I'm doing this because it really makes a difference in sourcing seafood and knowing where our seafood comes from. You have to know where your fish comes from. The numbers are staggering on how much fish being served is mislabeled. I have seen research where fifty percent is mislabeled. That is alarming."